Iraq bleeds as coordinated attacks continue

FRESH VIOLENCE: The third straight day of attacks left at least nine people dead, and were timed to disrupt the newly-formed Cabinet, Iraqi officials say


Mon, May 02, 2005 - Page 7

Insurgents launched a third straight day of stepped up attacks in Iraq on yesterday, including ambushes, car bombs and shootings, killing at least nine Iraqis and wounding 21, police said.

At least 74 people have died since Friday in a wave of violence timed to deflate hopes in Washington and Baghdad that the installation of the nation's first democratically-elected government would curb spiking attacks.

Many of the attacks have been well coordinated, and that was the case on a small road near Diala Bridge in eastern Baghdad, said police Lieutenant Colonel Sabah Hamid al-Firtosi.

At 6:15am, a pickup truck stopped near a checkpoint and insurgents jumped out and began firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, al-Firtosi said. Other insurgents appeared from behind nearby trees and joined the attack, he said.

Five policemen were killed and one was wounded, al-Firtosi said.

Later in the morning, a car bomb exploded in the Zafaraniyah neighborhood of Baghdad, killing four Iraqi civilians and wounding 12, police said.

Elsewhere in Baghdad, insurgents in three parked cars opened fire with hand guns on a police patrol in the western Jihad neighborhood, wounding four policemen, said police Captain Talib Thamir.

And in southeast Baghdad, a suicide car bomber attacked near a water pump station, said US Army Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Kent. No other details were immediately available.

Two attacks occurred yesterday in and around Hillah, 95km south of Baghdad, police said.

A roadside bomb exploded on a main road north of Hillah, wounding four civilians, said police Captain Muthana Khalid. In Hillah itself, a drive-by shooting on a police patrol caused no injuries, but the police arrested the four gunmen involved, he said.

US and Iraqi officials had hoped to curb support for the militants by including members of the Sunni Arab minority in a new Shiite-dominated Cabinet that will be sworn in Tuesday.

Sunnis, who held monopoly power during the rule of Saddam Hussein, are believed to be the backbone of Iraq's insurgency. Most stayed away from landmark Jan. 30 parliamentary elections -- either in protest or out of fear of attack.

However, the lineup named by incoming Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari after months of political wrangling excluded Sunnis from meaningful positions and left the key defense and oil ministries -- among other unfilled posts -- in temporary hands.

Approval of the Cabinet Thursday was met with an onslaught of bombings -- including a number of highly coordinated suicide attacks -- in the capital and elsewhere.

At least five car bombs rocked Baghdad on Saturday, the heart of the Iraqi government and American occupation, US military spokesman Greg Kaufman said. Six more exploded in the northern city of Mosul, which also has seen frequent attacks.

Also Saturday, the US Army released a report clearing American soldiers in the death of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq and recommending no disciplinary action.

The Italian Foreign Ministry had no comment on the American report Saturday. But the day before, Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said Italy did not agree with the US version of events. Italy was expected to release its own report on the shooting within days.

Nicola Calipari was mistakenly shot on March 4 soon after he had secured the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena from Iraqi militants who had held her hostage for a month.